NASCAR and ESPN’s “30 for 30” Showcasing NASCAR’s First Rockstar: Tim Richmond

Rick Hendrick poses the question that many have been asking since the late 1980s, “Looking back, what could have been? How many championships could Tim Richmond win?”

Hendrick is among the likes of Richard and Kyle Petty, H.A. “Humpy” Wheeler, A.J. Foyt and others who bring NASCAR fans a closer look at a driver who did everything at full speed. His lifestyle was what made him unique in a sport he took by storm and left an everlasting mark upon.

Tuesday, October 19 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, the newest “30 for 30” documentary titled Tim Richmond: To the Limit will showcase the career and life of a man that was taken away way too soon.


American Muscle

Every day was a party for Tim Richmond and he was the life of that party. The way he lived was by making sure his life was to the fullest and that he had fun while doing it. The talent he possessed behind the wheel had even Dale Earnhardt aware of whom his toughest competitor was going to be.

Yet, long before he was racing, Richmond was already impressing. As a kid he had his father time him as he ran to the mailbox. Speed came natural to Richmond and a natural is the best way to describe a man that sister Sandy Welsh says was good at everything he ever did, or else he wouldn’t do it.

Richmond became very good at NASCAR racing, even though it came after a less than pleasant stint in open-wheel. It did help get his name out and fans began to fall in love with him, quickly adding Mr. Popularity to his character traits.

A bad wreck at Michigan in 1980 however, ended his open wheel stint. It wasn’t so much about the wreck, Sandy will reveal to fans, which also includes a bit of family humor.

IndyCar became the past, NASCAR was the future and what a ride it would be. Richmond didn’t know much about stock cars but it didn’t matter to him. On track this was a man who knew how to drive, be it a bit aggressively.

Wrecks and torn up equipment were Richmond’s first impression on the NASCAR world.

Known as a womanizer, Richmond might have been welcomed by fans but fellow NASCAR drivers such as Darrell Waltrip recall that they didn’t know what to make of him. Good ‘ol boy he was not, nor was he from the south where they wore jeans and cowboy hats. Richmond showed up in silk suits.

Wrapped or packaged differently maybe, but everything was there to make Richmond a star and champion. Enter Rick Hendrick and the rest is “Days of Thunder.”

Pairing Richmond with crew chief Harry Hyde proved to be the magic combination as they tore through the then Winston Cup circuit. The team that finished third in points in 1986 was expected to become the next champions of the sport until a tragic fate got in the way.

What was passed off as double pneumonia, AIDS kept Richmond out of the car and racing for six months. When he finally returned it didn’t take long to pick up right where he left off, winning. Outside the car however, he wasn’t the same man that many were used to seeing.

Listening to friends and family talk about Richmond’s illness eat away at him, becoming a shell of his former shelf, is a sobering part of the documentary. No one wanted to be around him, rumors ran rampant in the garage about what was really ailing Richmond.

Drug use was repeatedly thrown out and Richmond’s name was dragged through the mud. ESPN journalist Ed Hinton provides a deep look into how AIDS not only affected the Nation’s mentality, but the sports and drivers as well.

Before the start of the 1988 season NASCAR suspended Richmond for failing a drug test and even after Earnhardt went to NASCAR on Richmond’s behalf, he would never again climb aboard a racecar.

For the NASCAR fans that never got to see Richmond race or truly know the story of Richmond’s decent from the sport, or the harsh truth never told, this is their opportunity. ESPN is telling the story and straight from Bill France Jr. comes the admission that Richmond was treated wrongly.

The suspension sent Richmond back home. Racing was over and so was life to Richmond. The best insight into Richmond’s thought over his final years, what his life was about, and who he really was will again come from his sister.

Viewers will be introduced to a different side of the Richmond story. Only a family member could provide a story as heart wrenching as hers.

When the end comes it’s always the saddest part. The ending of Richmond’s life in 1989 didn’t bring an end to the story though. Now’s the chance for every NASCAR fan to learn more about a man that might have been NASCAR’s first rock star.


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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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